I’m in my early thirties and about to become a father for the first time. While I’m excited, I’m also terrified by the prospect and feel like I’m going to be useless. My own dad died when I was five years old. I don’t feel I’ve experienced what it is to be a father. I can’t tell my wife as I want to support her, not cause her anxiety. How can I stop worrying about it?
That you seem so supportive of your wife tells me that you’re a sensitive chap and that bodes well. Your obvious emotional intelligence and the ability to think deeply about all the complex feelings you are experiencing at the moment speaks volumes. Far from being useless, I’m sure you’ll be a great dad.
But there’s no doubt becoming a parent for the first time is daunting. It draws to the surface all sorts of worries about how your lives are going to change and whether you can rise to the challenge. The bereavement that robbed you of your own father cannot be altered, but that doesn’t mean you don’t know what it is to be a good parent. You clearly have enjoyed very positive relationships with the significant adults in your life, so ask yourself – how did they help shape the man you are today?
Give yourself some time to think about the values that are important to you and how you are going to instil those into your own child. Of course, instinct goes a long way to helping you find your feet, so try to trust in it, but it isn’t the whole picture. Parenting requires a great deal of thought too, and it’s something you learn over time. You will make mistakes, all parents do, but it’s ok to admit that and move on. If you hold fast to those core values and you love and support each other then it’s likely things will turn out fine.
Having worked with parents and children to resolve a whole range of issues, the two T’s seem to me to be a good foundation to build strong parent/child relationships on – Time and Talk.
Spending quality time with your child is invaluable. It gives you the space to be that parent coach, the space to appreciate them for who they are, flaws and all, and the space to have fun together.
It’s also important to dedicate some time to your own relationship with your wife too. Kids require a great deal of energy and time spent as a couple can end up taking a back seat, so don’t be afraid to build in some ‘us time’.
Communication is also vital. From the moment your new baby makes an appearance, talk. Immerse them in the sounds of your voices and talk to them. About anything and everything. This is hugely important. It’s never too early to tell them stories, read to them and generally interact.
Finally, my last piece of advice is to you is to talk to your wife. Not necessarily about your anxiety, I understand you don’t want to burden her so close to the birth, but take the chance now, while you still have some baby-free time, to talk about the type of parents you want to be. Have a chat about what you will do when things get challenging.
Russell Hemmings is a Life Coach and Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist, author of The Mind Diet and Active Positive Parenting. Contact Russell on +971 55286 7275 or www.russellhemmings.co.uk.